To kick off our Kids Week, we spoke to Richard Rivera, Executive Vice President of Scout Comics and publisher of Scoot! (see “Scout Comics & Entertainment will launch Scoot!”). Scoot! publishes comics for a wide range of age groups, from their early reader launch titles to a YA line that is still in development. Their original graphic novel Unikorn, by Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin, is being developed as a feature film by Armory Productions.
What age groups are you targeting with Scoot! ?
For younger readers, even pre-readers, we have the Launch Books, which are meant to bridge the gap between comics and picture books. They are eight by eight, about 24 to 32 pages, and we have three stages. The first stage focuses on fun sounds and letter sounds that a parent might enjoy with a child. Everything is on one page [i.e., each page is a single panel]. Then, in the second step, we still keep single-page illustrations, but we add some vocabulary and repetition, and the illustrations go along with that. In the third stage, it becomes a bit more complex. Reading a comic is not necessarily easy if you don’t know where to start, so we have comics that are very easy to follow, and the vocabulary is increased. It’s definitely more of a book to read.
So basically we have books that start with kids who can’t read at all and work their way up to kids who are pretty comfortable with a number of different words, although there’s still a fairly simple vocabulary on all of these. And we’ll have Launch Interactive, which will be a book in which you make choices.
Like a book of choosing your own path?
Yes. The final launch category is J, which is Journeys. These are for someone who already has a better reading grasp, to read with a younger reader – to take them on the journey.
And your magazine?
It is Scoot Frontiers. [Holds one up.] I believe there are 10 different stories here.
Comic book stories?
Comedic stories that end with activities that accompany the story or refer to events that happened in the story, such as a word search.
Your introductory and mid-level books are not sequential. You don’t take them out at the end of the month. And the review?
You have touched on a point which is one of the fundamental concepts of Scoot! : everything is evergreen.
We have number 1s, but they are basically an introduction to a trade. So here it is action tank #1, a comic strip. It’s the first 22 pages of the story, then you get down to business.
Then we have standalone one-shots, like space cadet, where a child dreams of going to the moon, literally, and in that dream is greeted by a friendly astronaut. The astronaut shows them some of the features of the moon and explains how you make your dreams come true, and it ends with their footprints on the moon. So maybe it was a dream, or maybe it wasn’t.
What I loved about comics when I was a kid and when they were everywhere was that you could just pick up a comic and enjoy it. Now the industry has changed so much, where there are eight different Spider-Men.
So these are unique comics that any child can enjoy?
To the right. What we wanted to do is if, say, a mother, grandmother, or uncle walked into a comic book store and said, “I’d love to get my kid something, but I don’t know if they know with Supercats,” the store owner can say ” It doesn’t matter if he knows Supercats or not, because each problem is isolated.”
We want to make this very retailer friendly, because unlike our Scout line, where an issue comes out, it’s featured that month, and it’s done, but it will appear later in the trade paperback, we’ll be supporting all our [Scoot!] titles and print them forever. So if you want more, we’ll reprint this title and treat everything like it’s a book.
How are they distributed?
Have been [distributed] through Diamond and Lunar, and we’re in Universal for Canadian distribution. We have our own direct retailer program where retailers can order direct from us at 50% off, and if their orders are $150 or more, there is no shipping. [cost].
And Simon & Schuster is your distributor for the book chain?
Yes. In January, we will put [the Launch titles] by Simon & Schuster. They’re the exact same size, number of pages, and format as a Curious George book, so we’re going to look into them and distribute them in the book market as well.
But they are available now at comic book stores.
Yes. When we released them through Diamond and Lunar, we released all four of them at the same time. For stores that are considering having a kids department but don’t want to branch out to other distributors, we wanted to provide them with enough content for them to order Scoot! books and have a small children’s section. It will increase. We’re working with some of the creators of our older books to do simpler stories and do a 1, 2, and 3 launch. They’ll start with a sound-only book, learn how to read comics, and then actually read the comic with the same character and follow it throughout.
Scout Comics does a lot of variant covers. And Scott!?
On our issues, and sometimes also for our one-shots, we do the standard cover and then through our online store and selected stockists we do a white matte paper version with just the outlines, so it’s a color-in cover . And then we also do a VHS cover [that resembles] the old Disney flapper. I think there are 18 or 19 right now. We have relatives who got them all back.
Are Scoot! owned by a comic book creator?
We belong to creators. Scout proper is starting to have some of the few properties where we’re developing them as well, but when it comes to Scoot! goes, everything belongs to the creator. We approach people at comic book conventions and on Kickstarter, but we’re always open to submissions. I would say that between 30 and 40% of our titles are written by new creators.
Do you focus on particular genres?
We really let quality and submissions drive that. We don’t buy specifically for the zaniness of cartoons; we don’t shop specifically for science fiction. We have quite a wide range. We have everything from space adventure to grounded contemporary [stories].
I would say that a common thread running through our [Launch and middle-grade titles] would be that it’s really a safe haven for people knowing that it’s completely family-friendly, that certain approaches to subjects will never happen, that certain languages, content and positivity are inherent. In YA we tackle other issues – the single mother trying to get by, a government that conscripted superheroes – but even that is going to be tastefully handled.
Where are most of your sales happening right now?
Right now, I would say the majority of our initial sales come from the direct market, and we want to keep those relationships strong. We have retailers that have spaces dedicated to children’s books, so in the long run we will still have that market. But I think the best way to reach more kids will be to focus on our line of books through Simon & Schuster. The majority of things we’ll get through Simon & Schuster will be our Scoot! double.
What are you doing to make it easier to sell Scoot to retailers? comic books?
Our relationships with retailers are very important to us, and each one is different. One of the things that made sense to me was to have enough product that if they want to start a children’s book section and they don’t have one right now, they could really start one with us. alone. For any retailer who wishes to contact us, we are very happy to provide them with shelf decorations or items that can draw attention to the children’s area.
We have retailer programs, where if a retailer wants to open an account with us, it’s very, very easy to do. We give them upgrades and also allow them to purchase materials that are not available through Diamond and Lunar.
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